We often see the principle put forth here by Gamaliel as such a good idea. On the surface it is wise: wait and see if God is really in this before taking decisive action. The council is enraged with the apostles and Gamaliel steps up and says, simply, wait and see if God is really with them before doing anything drastic (vv.33-39). He uses the past to illustrate his point (vv.36-37) and it seems like this respected and revered rabban has acted as the council really should have.
But has he?
Gamaliel, whilst wise from a worldly perspective, already has enough testimony and evidence available to see that what the apostles are preaching – a crucified and risen Jesus as the long awaited Messiah – is of God. He sat on the fence when he should have stood up in action. Proposing a test of time may seem worldly-wise, but the test of truth had already been passed and Gamaliel had seen and heard enough already.
The apostles leave with a severe beating from which people have been known to die (vv.40-42) and go right back to teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. Unlike Gamaliel they had decided to take action on what they heard, saw, and knew to be truth.
The lesson is a strong one for those who believe today. There is enough testimony and evidence available for us to turn to Jesus in faith and tell others about it, as the apostles did. However, so many of us have often missed those opportunities whilst we ‘wait and see’.
Gamaliel’s counsel was wise from a worldly perspective, sure, but he missed an opportunity that day to stand up for what he knew to be true, to stand up for the truth that the Christ is Jesus.